Heard in India (Part 1: A to M): The answers

Here are the answers to the first part of the quiz I set a couple of days ago.

  • Abdar: A servant who sets the table.
  • Alkalak: The long coat worn by horsemen.
  • Angrezi Raj: British Rule.
  • Anna: A coin worth one-sixteenth of a rupee.
  • Atchan: A uniform jacket.
  • Ayah: A female servant, often a nursemaid for young children.
  • Baba: A good or loyal person.
  • Baba log: Good (loyal, honest) people.
  • Baboo (or Babu): A clerk or scribe.
  • Badmash: An evil person, insurgent, rioter etc.
  • Badshah: A great King.
  • Bakhsheesh: Gratuity, alms … or even a bribe!
  • Bahadur: When used as a title = champion, hero.
  • Bandobast (or Bundobast): Arrangement or organisation.
  • Bandook (or Bundock): A long gun such as a matchlock, musket, rifle etc.
  • Banya (or Buniah): A corn chandler.
  • Barkandaze: A matchlockman.
  • Basan (or Basunta): A yellow flowering bush whose flowers are usually the first sign of Spring.
  • Begum: A Queen.
  • Beyla: A dry river bed.
  • Bhang: Hemp when used as a narcoitic.
  • Bhagwan Jhanda: The holy standard of the Marathas.
  • Bhat: The native dialect.
  • Bhisti (or Bishti): A water carrier, such as Gunga Din.
  • Bibighar: The women’s quarters. It was often used to describe the Indian wives of British Officers.
  • Bilaitee: A Kabuli or Afghan.
  • Bowrie: A well.
  • Brahman: The highest caste within the cast system. Hindu priests belong to this caste. The majority of Brahmans are land owning farmers.
  • Bungalow: A square single storey building. Literally a ‘house in the Bengal style’.
  • Bunnia: A money lender.
  • Burquha (or Burqua, Burkha, Bourkha, or Burka): a Female garment which covers the wearer from head to toe.
  • Chai: Tea made in the Indian manner (i.e. the tea, water, milk, and sugar are all boiled together before serving).
  • Chapattis (or Chupattis): Flat discs of unleavened bread.
  • Chaprassi: A messenger.
  • Chapplis: Native sandals.
  • Char (or Cha): Tea made in the English manner (i.e. the tea is added to boiling water, and after it has brewed it is strained, and then milk [or lemon] and sugar are added to suit the taste of the drinker).
  • Charpoy: A low, framed bed.
  • Chick: A hanging screen.
  • Chirag: Clay saucers of oil with a wick that are used as lamps.
  • Chit: A note or slip of paper. In the British Army it was used for a note that gave the carrier permission to do something (e.g. an ‘excused boots’ chit).
  • Chittak: A measure of weight that was slightly less than two ounces.
  • Chota: Little (e.g. Chota Peg = a small drink).
  • Chowkiedar: A policeman.
  • Coorta: A Muslim women’s clothes.
  • Cutcherry (or Kutcheri): A court of law that dealt with civil offences.
  • Dacoit: A professional bandit.
  • Dai: A nurse and/or midwife.
  • Dak: The Postal Service
  • Darzee (or Darzi or Derzi): A tailor.
  • Dharma: Duty.
  • Dhobie: Washing.
  • Dhobie Wallah: A laundryman.
  • Dholli: Traditional gift given to a landlord in addition to taxes and rent.
  • Dhoti: The loin cloth worn by most Indians.
  • Dhoolie: A litter for carrying the wounded.
  • Doad: Land between two rivers.
  • Dogra: A mountain man or mountaineer. Usually used when referring to a Rajput.
  • Duffadar: A Native Cavalry Sergeant.
  • Duffadar Major: A Native Cavalry Sergeant Major.
  • Durbar: The Royal Court.
  • Dustoori: An expression meaning ‘Nothing can be done about it’.
  • Fakir: A poor holy man.
  • Feringhee: An unbeliever (e.g. a Christian).
  • Gerbauchs: A type of swivel gun.
  • Ghadi: A throne.
  • Gharry (or Ghari): A two-wheeled passenger carriage.
  • Ghat: A landing place on a river bank.
  • Ghazi: A Muslim holy warrior. They were fanatics intent upon dying after killing a non-believer and so qualifying to enter Paradise as a result.
  • Ghora Wallah: A groom or carriage driver.
  • Gingal (or Jingal): Small bore cannon that were often mounted on walls or tripods.
  • Golundaz: A gunner.
  • Gonda: A hereditary cowherd.
  • Goojur: A hereditary brigand or thief.
  • Goomtasha: An envoy, or agent acting for an important person.
  • Guru: A teacher and/or wise man.
  • Hafiz: A Muslim who knows the entire Koran by heart.
  • Halwi: A sweetmeat seller.
  • Havildar: A Native Infantry Sergeant.
  • Havildar Major: A Native Infantry Sergeant Major.
  • Hookah: A hubble-bubble pipe.
  • Hookah burdwar: The servant who recharges the hookah with tobacco and rosewater.
  • Howdah: An elephant carriage fixed to the back of the animal.
  • Hurkara: A runner or foot messenger.
  • Imam: A Muslim elder and/or priest.
  • Jang dida: Someone who has experienced war; a campaign veteran.
  • Jangli: A forest.
  • Jat: The hereditary warrior tribe of Rajputs.
  • Jellabi: Sweets.
  • Jemadar: A Native Infantry Lieutenant.
  • Jheel: A swamp.
  • Juldi (or Juldee): Hurry up
  • Kala Pani: The sea (literally ‘Black Water’).
  • Kansama: A butler.
  • Kalakasi: Someone employed to pitch tents.
  • Khitmagar: A bearer or male servant.
  • Khotwal (or Kotwal): A Native Official or Magistrate of the Bazaar.
  • Khud: A Steep slope, precipice, or abyss.
  • Kit (or Khit): Equipment.
  • Kootub (or Kutub): A small village.
  • Koss: The Indian measurement for a distance of two miles.
  • Kot Duffadar: A Native Cavalry NCO.
  • Ksatriya: The Lordly or Warrior caste. The second highest caste in the caste system.
  • Kurta: A frock coat.
  • Lakh: One hundred thousand rupees (A lakh of rupees was worth about £10,000 in 1857).
  • Lascar: A camp follower, general labourer, or native sailor.
  • Lat: Great, big, or large.
  • Loot: Plunder.
  • Lotah: A drinking vessel.
  • Maidan: The plains or any large, flat area.
  • Maharajah: A King.
  • Mahout: A hereditary elephant driver.
  • Mall: The main street in a town or city.
  • Maulvi: A learned man, often a doctor. (Usually used to describe a Muslim.)
  • Maund: A measure of weight of approximately 80 pounds.
  • Memsahib: A lady; the term was common usage for an British Official’s or Officer’s wife.
  • Mistry: A workman, builder, or mason.
  • Mleccha: The casteless ‘Untouchables’ who were outside the caste system. They were usually employed doing the most menial and/or degrading tasks that no Indian of caste would do.
  • Mofussil: The countryside.
  • Mohur: A gold coin worth sixteen rupees.
  • Muezzin: The man who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of a mosque.
  • Mufti: Civilian clothes as opposed to uniform.
  • Mullah: A Muslim religious leader.
  • Muggar: A river crocodile.
  • Munshi: A tutor or teacher.

5 Comments on “Heard in India (Part 1: A to M): The answers”

  1. CoastConFan says:

    Many of these words remind me of the books I have read about India over the years. Kipling comes to mind (of course) but also the excellent fiction works such as by Talbot Mundy,Francis Yeats-Brown (Lives of a Bengal Lancer) and other literature of and about the British Raj era. There are others that come to mind too: The Jewel in the Crown, George MacDonald Frasier’s Flashman Series, E. M. Forester’s A Passage to India, Kayne’s The Far Pavallions and Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet.

    I recommend among the many military and historical non-fiction book James Morris’ Heaven’s Command which is both an overview and a social narrative about what it was to be a colonial Victorian and how it grew from its Georgian East India Company roots.

  2. CoastConFan,

    The is a lot of 'forgotten' literature about British India … and I hope that I have done my 'bit' to try to revive interest in it.

    John Masters is one author whose books seem to be less read these days, and yet I think that they are excellent.

    All the best,


  3. CoastConFan says:

    Masters' works have never been commonly available here in the US outside of a few imports. It's one of those things: “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.” George Bernard Shaw. He also touched on wargames (I suspect) when he said, “We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Keep on playing!

  4. CoastConFan,

    I did not realise that John Masters's books were not readily available in the US.

    I like the Bernard Shaw quote … and it certainly does apply to wargaming, although I suspect that as a confirmed pacifist GBS might not have seen wargaming as a suitable hobby!

    All the best,


  5. rahul says:

    Dear Mr.Robert,
    It was nice to read the vocabulary you have prepared about the words you might have read in history books about India. But i am really sad to read the meaning you have included for the the word Gujjar. I am also a Gujjar and we constitute about 20 million of the population of India. Kindly give a second thought about what you have included here on this page. Gujjar was the tribe who actually started the revolt of 1857 and the Gujjars died fighting with britishers during that fight. Even their proprietary rights were taken by east india company at that time and they were made to live in very extreme conditions as they were included into the Criminal Tribes of India. I would kindly like to tell you that Gujjar or Gurjar was a very brave tribe not just during the reign of Britishers,but also in later Ancient India and Medieval India. They gave name to the state like Gujarat when they were once in power and also they have blood of Hepthalites,the white Huns, Scythians,Kushanas. Please,with a humble request, do not make them little by calling them hereditary thieves.
    Hope you had a great fun at Madeira and must have tried some of the best wines of this arquipelago.

    Sincere regards

    Rahul Singh

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